I pity the fool
Chris Patten has written an awful, patronizing and counter-productive piece in the New York Times. I was so happy about their news desk, but the Op-Ed is the same broken record about Sri Lanka being doomed to conflict and, oh, if they would only listen to the West. He literally starts the piece with ‘pity the poor Sri Lankan voter.’ Pity my democratic ass, we have a real choice at this election and the it’s already delivering results. Dudes are falling over themselves to woo voters and roads are opening, IDP camps are emptying, journalists are getting out of jail.
I think Sri Lanka can change and will change, but it will come from us. Instead of respecting and working with the Sri Lankan people, Chris Patten comes out with the usual moralizing tirade which has not much to back it up. He’s all about pity and threats of ‘cutting us off’. This may make a point in the circles he walks in, but it just hurts moderates on the ground here. Basically, he sounds like a colonial dick and strengthens the extremists. In the end it makes less and less space for us to push actual democratic values in the middle.
How to deal with shit like this:
Now, put yourself in a Tamil’s shoes, and decide whom to vote for in the presidential election: Choose either the head of the government that ordered the attacks against you and your family, or the head of the army that carried it all out.
Mr. Patten is saying that the Sri Lankan government ordered attacks specifically against Tamil civilians. I think the orders callously put people in the crossfire, but I don’t think for a moment that civilian families were targeted. No one is saying that the government was purposefully attacking civilians rather than attacking the LTTE and not much caring who was in the way. The latter is bad enough, but I think Mr. Patten’s allegation here is false. Worse, it makes the actual trauma look false by exaggeration.
By the end of 2009, most of the displaced had been moved, and the nearly 100,000 remaining in military-run camps were enjoying some freedom of movement — important steps brought about mostly as a result of international pressure and the authorities’ desire to win Tamil votes.
Can’t you just say, ‘we commend the government, but’? Even with tongue in cheek, just for diplomacy’s sake? The international community was not the reason, otherwise they would have also stopped the war. And the government decided to call the election. Plus they actually released the IDPs on the schedule they set. This is again Mr. Patten placing all the agency with the West and us just non-entities. He doesn’t give the government credit for anything, which even I do. It’s just a fatalistic view where Sri Lankans can’t do anything and the West needs to step in.
It is hard to imagine either candidate making the necessary constitutional reforms to end the marginalization of Tamils and other minorities — the roots of the decades-long conflict. Left unaddressed, Tamil humiliation and frustration could well lead to militancy again.
While Sri Lankan voters face a difficult decision, for the international community, the choice is clear. Whoever wins, the outside world should use all its tools to convince the government to deal properly with those underlying issues to avoid a resurgence of mass violence.
You know what, I can imagine it. I can imagine a better future, and I think most Sri Lankans can. So I’d really rather you not poop on that dream. It is something of a tautology here that the darkies will kill each other if they don’t follow western government just so. What they don’t realize is that a police state can also contain militancy, and there’s nothing a police state loves more than an international bogeyman making sweeping declarations, like…
In short, this means not giving Colombo any money for reconstruction and development until we know how it will be spent. And if we see funds not being used as promised, it means not being afraid to cut them off until.
Wow, I feel like I’m getting lectured by my dad, except Chris Patten isn’t my dad and the west itself is floating on Chinese loans. And the West is propping up governments in Saudi and Egypt and Israel and Pakistan that pretty much ignore what they say, but they seem to think it’s cool to make an example of Sri Lanka. I don’t mind if they act firmly, but they’re not really going to do it, certainly not based on some NGO Op-Ed. Talking loudly and carrying a little stick just emboldens extremists here.
They like the international bogeyman, and they especially like patronizing, empty threats. The JVP and people like Gotabaya Rajapakse are trying to spread this idea of an international conspiracy against Sri Lanka and Patten plays right into their hands. But again with the doom and gloom,
While there may not be much to choose between the candidates, the rift between General Fonseka and Mr. Rajapaksa — and the consequent divisions among Sinhalese nationalist parties and the renewed vigor of opposition parties — has at least put the possibility of reforms on the agenda. International leverage, correctly applied, could help expand this small window for change.
Well, there is a huge choice. Sarath doesn’t have a huge extended family for one, he’s in a coalition with all the minority parties, etc. They have drastically different proposals, one calling for more government reforms, the other same government and more projects. And what are these Sinhalese nationalist parties? The SLFP and UNP are not Sinhala nationalist parties, both work with Muslim and Tamil parties as expediency demands. And who split? Is he referring to the JVP, which is actually an opposition party? The only real Sinhala nationalist party is the JHU, and they’re not very prominent in this election at all.
I’m in the middle and even I am put off by both the tone and content of Mr. Patten’s piece. I don’t like it because it’s all about the West and how they know what’s right, giving no thought or respect to the Sri Lanka people that actually have to implement change. Threatening us with money or holding back money only pushes us back from the values that I think we have in common. In the face of what feels like an international threat, the country will pull away.
My overall point is that if the west needs to behave diplomatically. Speak softly and carry a big stick. You have money, cool, hold it over the ministers, don’t use it in a public forum that humiliates Sri Lankan people. You’re aware that many Sri Lankans think this war was worth it, why not put in a few paras to placate them that you’re not with the terras and rabid diaspora. Above all, don’t pity the Sri Lankan voter. We’re doing OK.